Will Richardson is very well known in the education world, partly because he has been active for a very long time, partly because of his well-known Tedx Talks and presentations, and partly because he’s still knocking it out of the park with his Change School, a robust 8-week online experience for educational leaders who are serious about changing school.
Richardson is one of those education thought leaders that doesn’t pull any punches. When you talk to him, he exhibits the kind of frankness that gives people permission to be frank as well, to voice the truths that may only be whispered in back hallways.
For example, when I discussed parental engagement with Will, he had the courage to say that many school leaders don’t want a high level of parent engagement in school, that they are more concerned with teaching than learning, and, to some degree, more parent engagement would just get in the way.
That is antithetical to every discussion I have ever heard on parent engagement, but sadly, is more true than not. The fact that Will would state it matter-of-factly gives you a lot of insight. Will has the unique ability to see things the way they are, and at the same time see things the way they can be. He is serious about change, and the participants in his Change School are serious as well.
What is Change School?
According to Richardson, “Change School is the result of our attempt to bring together the educational leaders from around the world into a community where we can dive into a lot of those topics, a lot of that ‘how’ stuff. And we stress all the time that it’s really not a course. We’re building a coaching and community experience that is unique in the education space.”
Richardson thinks that there’s a real desire on the part of leaders and others in education to finally come to terms with the gaps and the ironies that we have in classrooms because the reality is that a lot of the stuff we do in school really doesn’t comport to what we believe about learning. A lot of people recognize that, and now that gap has just become more acute given the student’s ability now to learn just about anything you want anywhere you are with whomever you find online.
I mean, this is not the world that schools were built for. Schools were built for a world of scarcity and inaccessibility; and, now, all of a sudden, we’re in this world of abundance and instant accessibility to information and people are realizing, “Yes, things have changed…we have to really figure this out now.”
Change at the scale we’re talking about isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a long time. It’s complex. It’s not easy. There isn’t one kind of cookie cutter approach or standard recipe to do it.
According to Richardson, “we at Change School are just really thrilled that so many people are willing to dive into that with us and then we can watch them and coach them and help them as they go through that process in their own districts.”
(Next page: The 3 big circles that can Change School)
Here are the three big things talked about in Change School–the three big circles that are interconnected:
1. What do you believe about how kids learn? It is crucial that we as educators write that down, that we articulate it, look at it from time to time and ask ourselves, “Am I doing what I believe in the classroom? Does that align with what I believe and what I know about how learning occurs?”
2. Do I understand how the world has changed in a learning context? Do we really understand what that means in terms of the agency that kids have now and people have? To learn, on demand, whatever they want, and the implications of that. That is the biggest shift that education has ever experienced. Most people don’t fully recognize what has happened. That it is not about the technology, that it is about the agency now that we have the choice we have, the power we have over the decision-making we have when it comes to what we learn, when we learn it, how we learn it and what we do with it. There has never been a more amazing time to be a learner, but most of us in education still don’t fully understand the context around what that means.
3. Practice–how is your practice informed by those other two things? How does your practice comport with what you understand and believe about learning? Does it also reflect what you understand about the way the world operates now?
Expanding the Circles
Within those circles there are any number of questions that emerge.
For example, what technologies are really appropriate in the classroom for kids? What literacies do kids need now to understand when they are reading and writing and communicating and connecting, contributing, and doing all the stuff they do online? How different are those from the literacies we grew up with and the things they are currently testing for?”
Richardson is asking the right questions. He is re-imagining what schools are and what they can become. In Change School, his 50 to 60 cohorts per session are learning to ask those questions too.
So, how many people does it take to become a movement? How many does it take to make a difference? Thanks to Richardson, we may soon know.
Many people want to change the world. Will Richardson is changing the world by changing school.